The advent of software-defined vehicles has led to the adoption of Universal Flash Storage (UFS) as the solution-of-choice for embedded storage in automotive industry. UFS provides several advantages over traditional storage solutions such as eMMC including superior capacity, bandwidth, low-power operation, reliability, and security. In this whitepaper, we explore the benefits of UFS for automotive applications, its technical specifications, and its impact on the future of software-defined vehicles. 

The automotive industry has undergone a remarkable transformation from the era of mechanical drives to comprehensive electrification, from basic automation to complete autonomy. This next generation of automobiles feature virtual displays, sleek user interfaces, and seamless in-vehicle and V2x connectivity, providing drivers with a new level of comfort, safety, and convenience. Automobiles to come will upgrade existing features, plug-and-play new ones, and keep evolving with just software updates. The evolution of the automotive industry into software-defined vehicles mimics that of smartphones and requires enhanced versions of processing, sensing and storage capabilities seen in smartphones.

A McKinsey’s study shows that while passenger car and LCV sales will increase slightly from 89M vehicles in 2019 to 102M in 2030 at ~1% CAGR, the automotive software and electronics market is projected to grow at ~4x that rate. Zooming in on automotive software, this market is projected to grow from $31B in 2019 to roughly $80B in 2030—a CAGR of >9%. ADAS/AD software followed by Infotainment, connectivity, security, and connected services will account for much of this growth.

Figure 1: McKinsey study showcasing the market trends for Automotive Software and E/E Market

Source: Mckinsey Jan’23 

Storage in Focus

The whole new hardware capabilities and exorbitant software demands of the automotive industry are pushing the limits of storage devices. Counterpoint reports that storage capacities in automotive will range from 2TB to 11TB over this decade. As expected, ADAS and Infotainment (IVI)/Digital Cockpit systems will lead the demand for storage.

Figure 2: A diagram of the 2025 NAND Storage

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ADAS systems need to collect, store, analyze, process, and transmit large amounts of information about complex road conditions and the driving environment in real time. With the progression from assistance systems to autonomous systems, the number of sensors continues to increase, and the amount of collected information is skyrocketing. Similarly, In-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems are transforming into massive screens and human-like interfaces managed by a Digital Cockpit system that controls everything from external communication (V2x) to internal HMI and entertainment with extensive demands on large and fast storage. 

Automotive Storage Solutions

NVMe-based SSDs are finding adoption at the top-end of storage capacities (>1TB) in applications such as ADAS L5 logging and sensor fusion applications. At the lower end (32GB-256GB) of the data storage spectrum, eMMC has been the traditional storage medium. However, eMMC can no longer keep pace with the steeply evolving requirements of the latest ADAS and IVI systems. Larger storage capacity (x2 to x4 times) in these systems is becoming the norm. Besides the need for large capacity, these huge blocks of data will need to be continually moved between the host processor and flash device. The interface bandwidth between the host and the flash device can act as a bottleneck or enabler of efficient transfers. With max capacity of 256GB and max data-rate of 400MBps, traditional eMMC-based media are highly limited in their applicability.

UFS - The Most Viable Embedded Storage Option up to 1TB

UFS, the popular standard for data storage in mobile devices, has also emerged as the most suitable option for large and fast storage requirements in the modern automobile. UFS currently offers storage capacities up to 1TB. The standardization bodies (JEDEC and MIPI) have been evolving the data-rates and capabilities of UFS standard over the last decade. 

Figure 3: The UFS System Standards Evolution

As demand for UFS 4.0 is beginning to set in, silicon-proven automotive solutions in the market today support UFS 3.0 that can go up to 2.9GBps with 2 lanes. Given that the interface is bidirectional, we are talking about +6x the speeds possible over eMMC transfers.  This data-rate exceeds that of 5G transfers (2.5GBps) allowing for smaller internal memory inside the host processor when data is being transferred between the flash device and external systems beyond the host processor.

Not just the interface speed, but also the flash write speeds are evolving. JEDEC enhanced the write performance by introducing the write booster feature in UFS 3.1 that adds a small pseudo SLC cache in the flash devices for easy and repeated accesses.

In terms of noise management too, UFS trumps eMMC. Unlike eMMC which is single ended, the UFS interface is differential making the system more resilient to transmission errors and noise implying lesser probability of incorrect data interpretation and/or need for retransmission. The differential signaling also provides better EMI performance making it easier to pass Automotive EMC Standard, CISPR 25, at system level.

Automotive storage is at a far higher risk of damage than consumer-grade variants. Vehicle behavioral stability and reliability is of great concern for consumers and manufacturers. Automotive storage is at a far higher risk of damage than consumer-grade variants. UFS lowers overall risk of wear and tear of the storage device by allowing the storage device to notify the host about large temperature variations. When the storage device indicates alarming temperatures, the host can throttle down or take actions to cool down the device temperature.

Low power operation is a mandatory requirement for electronics to reduce carbon footprint and extend battery lifecycle. UFS achieves this through differential signaling and ability to switch to deep sleep mode. 

Furthermore, security has become a key focus in automotive given the risk it presents to human and asset life. As external connectivity penetration grows in cars so does the security attack surface. A hacker may send fake messages and cause trouble to in-vehicle communications. Examples include enabling/disabling the car, displaying incorrect navigation information, turning on/off lights, distracting the driver with audio, generating false dashboard alerts, or taking over complete control of the car. These threats make placing security mechanisms imperative in system design. JEDEC, the standards body for UFS, has introduced support for inline encryption preventing eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks native to the specification. Robust encryption mechanisms are proposed to allow for standardization across host and device combinations. Encryption scheme support is a key differentiator between UFS and eMMC making the former more appropriate for ADAS and black-box implementations.

In summary, UFS, the most favored data storage in smartphones, is also the clear winner to support storage requirements in modern software-defined vehicles. 

UFS offerings from Synopsys

Synopsys has been a pioneer in UFS IP with offerings in controllers and PHYs supporting the top-of the-line specifications – UFS 4.0, Unipro 2.0 and MPHY 5.0. Our automotive MPHY offerings are Grade 2 (-40 to 105C) AEC Q100 qualified supporting advanced 7nm and 5nm nodes. Our UFS 3.0 controller is ASIL-B Safety Ready with a complete suite of FuSa deliverables and is Si-proven to be quickly designed into the next automotive project. We continue our focus on UFS with an extensive roadmap to match our customer’s design needs in this market.

Key feature of SNPS UFS solution: 

  1. Compliant with either the MIPI M-PHY v5.0 or M-PHY v4.1 specification as M-PHY Type-I
  2. MPHY Supports High-Speed (HS) Gear1, Gear2, Gear3, Gear4, Gear5 4 A/B modes and low-speed Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) Gear1 to Gear5 in Type-I LS implementation.
  3. UFS Host Controller IP integrates the UFS host controller application layer with a pre-configured Synopsys MIPI® UniPro protocol stack
  4. UFS Controller support the Inline Encryption section of UFSHCI spec and implements AES-XTS Block Cypher with 256/128 key length for maximum security.
  5. Support to satisfy random hardware fault metrics for specified ISO 26262 ASIL level.
  • Safety Manual

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